“Investment in nutrition is an investment in economic development. By reaching out to children and their mothers, we can help improve nutrition and prosperity for all Lao citizens.”
SOURCE: Beth S. Paige, director of the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia
Despite strong economic growth, Laos still experiences some of the highest rates of child and maternal mortality and malnutrition in Southeast Asia. Approximately 44 percent of children in Laos are stunted and 27 percent of children underweight.
The USAID Nurture project, implemented by Save the Children in collaboration with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, works through community-based health workers and local villages to improve infant and young child feeding practices with pregnant women and children under two years of age.
Good nutrition is about more than consuming nutritious foods, it’s about the body’s ability to absorb nutrients:
Despite steady economic growth over the last 15 years, Lao PDR continues to have very high chronic malnutrition rates: nearly every second child under the age of 5 in Lao PDR is chronically malnourished and every fifth rural child is severely stunted. These rates are even higher in remote areas and among some ethnic groups.
- If people don’t wash their hands with soap before handling food, disease-carrying germs have a direct route into their mouth and down into their gut where they can inhibit the body’s ability to use the food’s nutrients
- Germs from our hands can directly consume nutrients before they even get into the body
- Germs from our hands can directly damage the intestinal lining (a condition called environmental enteropathy), which contributes to nutrients being lost in feces instead of being absorbed.
- Germs can furthermore irritate the gut lining so that toxins can get inside and cause inflammation – using up nutrients in the process.
- Since children who are undernourished are more susceptible to developing diarrhea when they come into contact with disease-causing germs, lack of handwashing and under-nutrition can become a vicious cycle
By training women from 346+ villages to make healthy soap products, by giving them the equipment and supplies necessary to start their own sustainable family business and providing post training support in marketing their soap products outside of their local villages.